Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House
Narrated by: Alyssa Mastromonaco
Length: 5 hrs and 58 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (3,940 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

If your funny older sister were the former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, her behind-the-scenes political memoir would look something like this....

Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, and long before his run for president. From the then-senator's early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change happen through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of briefing binders. 

But for every historic occasion - meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm - there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren't nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican. 

Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a "White House official" is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon). 

Told in a smart, original voice and topped off with a couple of really good cat stories, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is a promising debut from a savvy political star. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2017 Alyssa Mastromonaco (P)2017 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"A candid and charming memoir of her unexpected career in government.... The memoir abounds with intimate glimpses of Washington, D.C., celebrities (Biden, Clinton, Michelle Obama, and scores more) and cheerfully dispensed survival strategies. An entertaining look inside the White House." (Kirkus)

Featured Article: 20 Best Political Audiobooks to Better Understand the World


The best political audiobooks are those that resonate with the current political climate while keeping history relevant, revealing truths about the government and extrapolating details about the uncertain future. Our top 20 picks probe myriad branches of politics, both American and foreign, inspecting existential and moral questions that feel intensely relevant; listeners will find memoirs from famed political leaders and scientifically driven texts alike.

What listeners say about Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Engaging and funny

This is the autobiography/memoir of Alyssa Mastromonaco. She starts off telling about growing up in a small town in Vermont. While attending the University of Vermont she did her summer internship with Bernie Sanders. After college she worked for Senator John Kerry then obtained a job with Senator Barack Obama. When Obama became President, she became the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President. She was the youngest women to assume this office.

The author provides a look inside how presidential campaigns are run and what it is like to work in the White House. For those planning on a job in politics, she provides some pointers and a few examples are…. “always be prepared”, “Know as much as possible about the people you meet”,… “Be polite”… “Take responsibility for your mistakes”.

The book is easy to read but did not follow a chronological order which was a bit confusing at times. I enjoyed the humor but what I did not enjoy was the profanity. If you are curious about politics or thinking about working in politics, you will enjoy this book.

The book is about six hours long. The author narrated the book.

57 people found this helpful

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New title-Crazy Nervous Cat Lady

This was an enjoyable listen, for the first hour, but, I felt like this was a repeat of every 30 something over stressed, disorganized, professional, and yet so down to earth girl who eventually finds love.
I think there were two our the good points to this book but I didn't feel any connection. Narration was enjoyable.
Content is a like Parks and Rec but nothing is funny.
I am certain there is great content but this is one of those books that should have just been a blog.
like this comment the book went on and on in a circle of similar comments and then if finally ends.

Key disconnects-
I got a new cat and named after "x" I could hear him pee. and he didn't cuddle.

I was changing jobs and they said start now. I was all no way I need a break. One week later of unemployment... My life is so relaxing but I feel worthless, doesn't anyone need me, am I worthless? I need something to do and I'm so relatable right?

At a party, guy asked me to get a coke for him. I was all WTF, do you know who I am? Minutes later at the vending machine I affirm he must be a douche bag. Said nothing and got him the Coke. Ya, feminism.

Was going on honeymoon. Wait my cat is sick...do I stay? NVM these other cats are going to pay for him.

Also no chronological order. In and out of the White house. Story jumps from being married to single again five times I bet. The honeymoon story started, stopped, then completed fire chapters later.

Crazy Cat Lady, POTUS calls for condolences when cat dies.

5 people found this helpful

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Humorous, insightful, and empowering

Any additional comments?

If you are looking for a book that is humorous, insightful, and empowering to women in leadership this is a great one for you. I think if you liked Tina Fey's and Mindy Kaling's books, you'll like this one too. I'm almost done with the audible version and love it!

55 people found this helpful

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Hard to follow

Although she explained in the end exactly why the book was “laid out” in the way it was, it was really hard to follow - specifically as an audio book when she went back and forth in her timeline. It seemed really choppy and at multiple points I almost gave up, but there was always a story she got started on that brought me back in.

4 people found this helpful

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  • ML
  • 11-13-17

Some great anecdotes, but with an awkward flow

One persons story of how she rose from a volunteer to a major player in the White House. The anecdotes brought me to tears more than once, but the transitions were so disjointed that I had to listen several times just to understand how the story went from one place to the next. Story might start out chronologicaly then switch to stories with the same characters. There were pictures that were important that were excluded in an audible version.
# audible 20 review sweepstakes entry

4 people found this helpful

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A woman works for obama

Enjoyable read that provides insight into how the White House and Barack work. Really made me miss Obama. He called her when her cat died, for gods sake! Imagine the orangutan doing that

111 people found this helpful

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Interesting anecdotes from an everyman’s ( woman’s) point of view.

I read this for the insight of what it’s like to be an Everyman fortunate to have worked into such a unique behind the scenes position as she had. All that was enjoyable. Her personal life naritive just wasn’t that interesting to me - while candid and somewhat extrordianary ( sad and and downright neurotic too) I just became bored with it. I wanted the anecdotes about POTUS and life moving the president, not the ramblings about her life
Interesting and candid, well written, yes. Just not that great to listen to.

3 people found this helpful

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Very Insightful

Alyssa was very transparent as she walked you through the life of a staffer. As a Navy Staff Officer, I see a lot of similarities and sincerely appreciate her perspective. Being a staffer can be challenging so hearing how she navigated the various pitfalls was funny and insightful. I have already shared this book.

23 people found this helpful

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A must read for every young woman

This is the perfect book for every young woman. Especially when you want to go into politics, or plan another big career. What makes this book so great is that Alyssa is so relatable, she writes about the big meetings with Obama she had, her love for cats and everything in between. You can be a woman with a big career and still be a crazy cat lady. This is an unique insight in the head of someone who looks like she has it all together, but on the inside is just as insecure as all of us.

11 people found this helpful

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Better than expected!

I don't recall how I stumbled upon this book in Audible, but it was interesting, inspiring and laugh out loud funny! Worth the listen. I may listen again, it was that good.

29 people found this helpful

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  • J. Casey
  • 05-18-17

Funny, smart & inspiring in the best way

Warm, funny & very human.
I basically want Alyssa to be my new best friend because she manages to make one of the most stressful jobs in the word seem like an absolute privilege (which it is, I guess).
She's warm, funny as hell - all while being grounded & practical.
The book is lovely to listen to- like listening to a friend and it's filled with great stories about her time at the White House that make the very idea of working in government & politics seem attainable & positive instead of the usual political memoir filled with backstabbing manoeuvring.

1 person found this helpful

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  • cg
  • 09-15-17

entertaining

good book ..light and entertaining and good insight into life at the White House and commitment involved in same .

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  • Joules
  • 07-29-17

Great insight into an interesting world

Really enjoyed this audiobook. It provided a really human take on a world that most look at in awe.

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  • GF
  • 05-27-17

brilliant

brilliant. benefits from narration by the author. really enjoyable. and thought provoking. well worth listening to.

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  • Wendy R.
  • 04-17-17

Smart, funny and insightful

Loved loved loved Alyssa's story. Really interesting perspective of politics at the highest level rarely told by a younger woman. Really appreciated the "boots and all" detail on the challenges of juggling monthly menstruation and IBS in a crazy busy job. We have all experienced this in some way and it was great to hear it told so honestly. Highly recommended.

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  • plukni
  • 04-01-17

Enlightening and encouraging! Thanks Mastromonaco!!

Provides a great look into the world of politics as a young person and as a woman.
Having worked in a head of state's office I found this particularly relatable; the stories and feelings.
I loved the anecdotes such as the tampons in the White House (who'd have thought!!) to the crazy of organising events at the last minute that you miss out on other stuff such as the fancy dinners but you don't mind because you actually love the crazy.
Thanks for being inspiring!! It's hard adjusting after working in that kind of environment; I often look back on my experiences and want to go back for all the reasons raised in this book.

I'm glad you wrote this; and that Oyler helped tackle it (and that you explained it!!) I'm glad I read the Lenny article and heard about this book!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tampil
  • 07-01-17

Unexpectedly insightful

There is a lot you can learn from first-person narrative of an important but less vogue individual, who, with her chief position, made sure the public sees only the best of the more conspicuous person/group in their primary activities. Also, I love your sense of humour Alyssa!

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  • Kat
  • 05-03-17

so interesting and enjoyable.

this book was an easy listen - a down to earth look into a relatively unrealised element of the US political scene